|The small newsrooms and private ownership structure of many of the ethnic media make tracking investment in the newsroom resources difficult. Statistics are usually gathered around specific ethnic groups, and there simply are no aggregators looking at the employment or investment in Korean or Ukranian newsrooms across the nation. Anecdotal evidence shows that many smaller papers rely heavily on freelance copy. And as is the case in most small English-language newsrooms, staffs are small with a few people wearing many hats.
Again, the exception to those rules is the Hispanic media where some data gathered on the print side and the broadcast side are big enough that press releases and mainstream news accounts reveal some trends.
According to self-reported numbers from the Latino Print Network, staffing is on the rise at Hispanic papers. Between 2003 and 2005 the total staff at all Hispanic dailies (full-time and part-time) went from 3,606 to 4,534. At weeklies it went from 3,707 to 4,269. And at less-than-weeklies it climbed from 1,837 to 1,918. Considering the hard times that have befallen mainstream newspapers, those numbers look impressive.1
But when one factors in the growing number of publications, the average staffing looks less remarkable. Dailies have seen a big increase, going from an average staff of 90 in 2003 to an average of 108 in 2005. But the average staff at weeklies and less-than-weeklies is holding still at 12 and 6 respectively.2
The rise in staffing at dailies also comes with a caveat. When one figures the number of pages per staff member per issue, staffing has not really moved at all. In 2003 each daily put out 1.2 pages per staff member, and that was the exact number in 2005. But there are positives in that finding. Those publications are growing thicker, and in a time when many news organizations are asking staffs to do more with less, holding flat may be an accomplishment. But the hirings being recorded are probably not leading to staffs having extra time to report or write stories.3
There are less data for Hispanic broadcasters. No organization collects data and reports on its staffing. But headlines in recent months point to some tougher times at one of the two big broadcasters: Telemundo.
In mid-October 2006 NBC announced it was making big changes in its broadcasting division, including, among other things, closing its New Jersey MSNBC headquarters and cutting 700 jobs.4 Among those cuts were 68 employees of Telemundo in Puerto Rico. The NBC cuts also meant the ending of local news broadcasts at six stations, including 5 of the top 10 markets in the country. Those newscasts are going to be lumped into one regional broadcast that will come from a central hub, and stations in those markets — San Jose, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Denver and Dallas — will be reduced to bureaus.5
The move bears some resemblance to the efforts of the English-language broadcaster Sinclair, which centralizes portions of its nightly newscast from Baltimore for many of its 58 stations scattered around the U.S. The move was attacked by critics as a way to skimp on local coverage by cutting local staff for one smaller national one.
NBC said the moves would help it “move forward and focus on its long-term existence with a model that’s more efficient,” but the network did not eliminate local newscasts at its English-language stations. It appears, for the short term anyway, that the mandate at Telemundo will be to do more with less.
Other than an announcement about a new studio opened in Houston, there were no major announcements from Univision concerning news investment.
The challenge for Hispanic broadcasters is one of dollars and cents. While some do very well in news ratings, even beating their English-language counterparts (see Audience), those numbers don’t always translate into dollars. In Los Angeles, for instance, Univison’s KMEX regularly wins the ratings war for the key 18-49 demographic group for its late news. But those numbers don’t have the power they might otherwise have because advertisers don’t view its audience as being as desirable as those of its competitors. The result: the channel can charge only a fraction of what its English-language counterparts can.
In the newsroom that means that even at a big station like KMEX, the newscasts can be all hands on deck, with even on-camera staff members running to the control room to help with production after their camera time.
5. NAHJ press release “NAHJ Board’s Statement on NBC’s Plans for Telemundo” October 23, 2006